I am a big fan of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. I have a large collection of different renditions, ranging from a CD of Patrick Stewart’s reading it in his one-man show, to the classics, to the Muppets Christmas Carol, and other variations. The strangest so far is Dr. Who’s version. Christmas Eve evening after the worship service I will start my marathon watching and listening. (If you haven’t heard Patrick Stewart perform, make the investment for next year. Turn the lights low, stretch out on the sofa, and listen to his Royal Shakespearean Theater trained voice.) Though the story is the same (with the one exception being Dr. Who), they are not clones. Albert Finney’s Scrooge singing “I Hate People” in Scrooge emphasizes that aspect. After watching George C. Scott as General Patton in Patton, in his portrayal of Scrooge I keep thinking it is Patton getting briefed and changing directions. Not reforming, just adjusting the battle plan.

Towards the end of the story, having seen his dismal end Scrooge demands that there must be a way for him to change, otherwise “why show me this if there is no hope?” He awakens back in the present. But from then on, the past and the future remain with him, affecting his present. He can’t change the past. He will still die in the future. But by living differently, by being different in the present, the course of his destiny will change. It is not too late.

A Christmas Carol was written quickly, when Dickens was in one of his many broke periods, and he wrote to take advantage of the demand for Christmas stories. It is ironic, for it has become a classic, better known even than his Oliver Twist (a full book that took much effort.) It gets messages across in ways that aren’t complicated, just effective. It is timeless, for unfortunately humanity has not changed, so the calls on behalf of the poor and for better working conditions for the down-trodden are as relevant and needed today as back in the 1800s. There is even an anti-Christmas-consumerism line that is omitted in several of the movies, where the Ghost of Christmas Present points out that Christmas isn’t just one day a year, for the Child born that night is present every day of the year.

The Christmas Carol is a ghost story. But it is a ghost story that denounces injustice, shows the nobility of the poor, and the reality that wealth won’t buy a way into heaven. Or, for that matter, wealth

won’t even guarantee true mourners when you die. It is a radical story, easily read in one evening. It gives hope even as it calls for reform. It speaks to all of us. I invite and challenge everyone to savor it this Christmas! If you have never read it, read it aloud (as it was meant to be read.) You will rediscover a treasure.